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Saturday was an adventure day. The outing planned? To go to one of the 3 sites of rock paintings supposedly in this area of Nampula. The Department of Culture has a brochure on this and although it is in Portuguese and has only rudimentary directions and even less information, we give it a try. Aiming for the site in the Distrito de
Meconta, about 30 minutes out of the city we head out on the Nacala road. We are given distance directions between the Distrito de Meconta sign and Nacavala, then it becomes a little bit more vague. Apparently there is a sign. Nobody believes there is actually a sign so we look out for anything that looks like a road going off the main one. But, hang on, what’s this? Yes, that is a sign. Amazing – we have become so conditioned to signage etc being almost non-existent here we almost can’t believe this one exists. But there is is and we swing off to the right, stop to let the dogs off the back of the truck so they can run alongside, and start to cross the railway track, we have a hairy moment where we seem to be unable to get over it, straddled across the track like some bad comedy of errors. Phew, we roll over and on our way. To where? The directions have now come to an end. The ‘road’ gets smaller and smaller until really we can’t call it much more than a footpath and before it becomes a footpath for the rare one-legged bush rat, we turn off and park in a field of cassava. Right. We have a big rock in front of us and no idea where on this rock these paintings are supposed to be. A cave somewhere, the brochure says. Helpful. A couple of the guys go ahead and start circling the rock, bashing through trees waist high grass. The rest of us are more concerned about snakes – it is perfect snake territory, and I’m not talking about placid house snakes, here there could be spitting cobra, black mamba, green mamba, puff adder or the twig snake. There are loads of twigs where the others went. We go back to the pathway. One direction takes us further away from the rock. Back we go, finally, trying to decide what to do, we ‘bump’ into some locals walking along. They have a clue unlike us where these paintings are and as they are heading in that direction, lead the way. They do have some concerns about our car getting stolen if we just leave it where it is. What? In the middle of the bush??? We decide to leave it. Behind a trail of tangerines and sweat we follow our guides to ‘the mango tree’ and there is what we missed. A path so small not even the one-legged bush rat would take it. Sticks in hand we bash our way through till we get to a big cleared drive area. This, believe it or not, leads to the ‘tourist centre’, a concrete block with open sides and some concrete benches inside, rundown and absolutely deserted. Either this was a project funded by some enthusiastic aid organisation before they got sidetracked or this is a new project funded by some aid organisation that is too disorganised to get a sign up before they build a visitors centre. Past this we go, still no signs, straight up the side of the rock. There seems to be some small cave ahead. Once there we finally spot some, about 2 or 3, paintings in red. This must be it. Disappointment seeps in…

But wait, there is another cave, bigger, with what looks like the scribblings of some mad shaman all over its walls. We cross over. Yes, this is it. The paintings are not what I would call traditional rock paintings, they are geometrical and randomly placed. All over, over each other. There are some tattered bits of material stuck to wooden poles, an  old box of incense sticks and an abandoned plate or two, indicating this must be a sacred site!!

But the view is great, the rocks of Nampula blue in the distance. Trees that have been allowed to grow tall. Some power lines showing us where not so far from civilisation even though it feels like we have found, literally, the middle of nowhere. With no signs in place to show us directions, perhaps those paintings are there to guide us across this nowhere to some other nowhere just round the corner.

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